A Little Princess
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron. US. 1995. G. 97 minutes. Warner. DVD.
Sponsored by The Great American Pub & Hotel
Sat., November 21, 2015
“You really must, you know: Mexican-born Alfonso Cuaron’s evocation of the great girls’ novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (who also wrote “The Secret Garden”) is magical. The story is about Sara Crew, the beautiful, rich little girl raised in India by her handsome, adoring widowed father (a Freudian dream come true!), who is sent to a harsh victorian-style boarding school in New York when her Papa goes off to World War I. For various reasons I won’t spoil for newcomers, Sara suffers terribly — the headmistress is a perfectly mean spinster — but through it all, she never loses sight of her own loveliness, or of the loveliness available in imagination (a successful psychoanalysis come true!). A Little Princess is lyrical, liberated by a sense of freedom quite modern in its buoyancy. Like Gillian Armstrong’s Little Women, it renovates a classic tale without sacrificing heritage. About the only actor you’re likely to recognize is the redoubtable Eleanor Bron (Women in Love) as the awful headmistress, and she’s grand. But so are Liesel Matthews as Sara and Liam Cunningham as her Papa. All the little girls are princesses here; all the costumes and sets are opulently gorgeous. The script, by Richard LaGravenese and Elizabeth Chandler, is simple but never simpering; the music, by Patrick Doyle, shimmers. There are moments in A Little Princess — particularly Cuaron’s Indian play-within-the-play, which is nearly avant-garde in its conception — when you may just want to clap from pleasure. My advice to you is: Go ahead, you’re a grown-up.” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)